Album Review: Emmy the Great – First Love

Here at For Folk’s Sake HQ, we are so excited about this release that we’ve had to change our collective trousers.  Emmy the Great has been working the London gig circuit with her dark but charming brand of folk for years, and it’s proper wonderful that she’s finally putting an LP out into the world.

The long wait is down to Emmy’s single-minded determination to go it alone and, according to her press release, to produce an “answer to the pigeonholers and industry insiders who would have her painted differently”. First Love is self-released, self-funded and self-produced and you could be forgiven for wondering if its creator is also a tad self-obsessed, ferociously guarding control of the production of this record as she has.

Emmy has been playing most of the album’s songs to admiring audiences for some time. Of all the tracks on the album M.I.A. most closely resembles its older incarnations. It paints a picture of the immediate aftermath of a car crash in stream of consciousness, in which delicate melodies contrast with the starkest of observations. “I still remember holding my hand against your face/just before it was sprayed across the radio as it played.”

Reworked versions of old favourites include the still lilting but now fuller-sounding Easter Parade and the acerbic City Song with it’s lyric “This city fills my mouth up with decay/but I like it, it reminds me how you taste”. These are joined by new tracks including First Love, which borrows melody and lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah right down to a perfectly timed “…worst I could do/Yeah I remember…” to recall the original’s “do ya?” 

Our favourite here at FFS is recent single We Almost Had A Baby, which, in a beautifully delicate vibrato, tells the story of a woman relishing the idea of getting the upper hand over her lover by conceiving his child. Terrifyingly, Emmy cites it as one of very few autobiographical songs she has written, saying that if all her songs were based on real events she’d “be dead by now”.

Brimming with rounded narratives and stunning melodies First Love is a work of staggering imagination and creativity from someone who deserves her self-aggrandising moniker.

Words: Helen True